Travel Take-Away: Magical Marrakesh and Moroccan Mint Tea
Written by Emily Baillie
Visiting the Moroccan city of Marrakesh is like entering an oasis of tastes and smells. Africa’s busiest square, the historic Jemaa el Fnaa, teems with locals and tourists looking to shop, socialize and feast after the day’s heat dissipates.
If you can navigate the square’s dizzying jumble of motorcycles, acrobats, snake charmers, belly dancers, henna artists and spice vendors vying for your attention, you’ll soon reach food lovers delight. Spiced lamb and chicken kebabs, warm scented couscous, steamy escargot, fresh orange juice and exotic almond pastries are spilling from rows of street food stalls. Hearty and aromatic tagines, for which Morocco is legendary, are served in what becomes an open-air restaurant by night.
Spices are used extensively in Moroccan cuisine, and the local cumin, cinnamon, ginger, saffron, coriander and brick-red paprika is deliciously potent. Nearby souks (North African market stalls) offer bulk spices for those eager to duplicate recipes at home.
No visit to Marrakesh is complete without endless cups of sweet mint tea. Made with green tea, fresh mint and sugar, this hot drink is typically enjoyed with friends and family multiple times throughout the day. The exotic and aromatic cuisine of Marrakesh is a rewarding treat for the adventurous food traveller. I, for one, can’t wait to return.
Moroccan tea is more than a drink. It’s an institution. You can’t move more than a few steps anywhere in the country before nearly tripping over the hot, sweet drink. Made by steeping green tea with spearmint leaves, Moroccan mint tea is a sign of friendship, hospitality and tradition. Making good mint tea in Morocco is considered an art form and the drinking of it with friends and family is often a daily tradition.
Moroccan Mint Tea Recipe: 6 servings
1 tablespoon loose Chinese gunpowder green tea
5 cups boiling water*
3 to 4 tablespoons sugar, or to taste
1 large bunch fresh mint (1 ounce)
Special equipment: a 1 to 1 1/2-quart teapot
Put the green tea in a teapot and add one cup of boiling water. Swirl the water gently to warm pot and rinse the tea. Strain out and discard water, reserving tea leaves in pot. Add the remaining four cups of boiling water to the tea and let it steep for two minutes. Stir in sugar (to taste) and mint sprigs. Steep for another 3 to 4 minutes. Serve in small heatproof glasses.
*Water temperature for steeping gunpowder green tea should be 180°F. Alternatively if you don’t have a thermometer, let the kettle sit for about five minutes before adding water to the leaves, so you don’t burn the leaves.
Emily Baillie is a writer and photographer based in Toronto. Her article was featured in Countlan Issue 05
Recipes for Your Left-Over Mint
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- Culinary Ginger: Sweet Potato Samosas with Mango Chutney
- Mediterranealicious: Orange and Fennel Salad
- So Hungry I Could Blog: Minted Rose Soda
- Foodess: Creamy Greens and Coconut Linguine